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Around the World in Drought

Robert Hunziker

Carbon emissions have turned the planet into a heat machine.

According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, severe drought is now found throughout the planet.

A recent Cambridge University study claims that since 2015 European drought has accelerated and intensified. In fact, the continent is experiencing the most intense drought in 250 years.

Italy’s Po River Valley, as of July 2022, has cut water for 125 towns. Drinking water is delivered via trucks to Piedmont and Lombardy, as local reservoirs no longer exist. They’re gone! Italy’s drought alert is now spreading to the central part of the country to the rivers Arno, Aniene, and Tiber where water levels are “drastically down.”

The Rhine River, Europe’s most important waterway for commerce and industry and tourism, is close to shutting down. Key shipping lanes are down to 19 inches water depth. This is happening two months before the normal seasonal lows. Transports already reduced from 6000-ton loads to 800 tons but may be forced to halt completely, making coal shipment to Germany and, inclusive of all commercial goods, a horrendous challenge for upcoming winter months.

In France more than 100 towns are without drinking water and now receive water deliveries by truck. The government has established a water crisis team. Trees and bushes are prematurely shedding leaves. France’s nuclear power plants, at a time when half of its 56 reactors are offline due to maintenance and serious corrosion issues, are now threatened due to river water temperatures used to cool the reactors. Restrictions kick in 26°C. Some plants are experiencing 28°C and 30°C river water temps.

In Spain, water restrictions have been imposed on Barcelona, Malaga, Huelva, and Pontevedra. Catalonia has severe restrictions on individual liters per day. The price of olive oil is likely to spike by at least 25% as heat hits crops. 

In Portugal, 99% of the country is experiencing severe drought. It’s the driest in 1,200 years. Lawn watering prohibited.

According to NASA, the worst drought in 900 years is hitting the entire Middle East. A Carnegie Endowment study as of 2022 claims water scarcity is threatening violent conflicts throughout MENA, the acronym for the Middle East and North Africa. 80-90 million people in the region will experience water insecurity within three years. The European Commission Joint Research Center, in a recent study, claims there’s a 75%-90% chance of water wars.

Santiago, Chile’s population of 6.5 M is on a severe water-rationing program with rotating 24-hour cutoffs for homes in the city. On the suburban outskirts of Santiago, water is delivered by truck to 400,000 families or 1.5M people. They are allotted 50 liters (13.2 gallons) of water per day per person. Additionally, in the northern regions of Chile, precipitation is down 90%.

In Argentina, the drought is so bad that the famous Iberia wetland is at its worst levels in 80 years as fires raged earlier this year in one of the world’s largest wetlands.

In SE Asia, the Mekong River, the principal river for the entire region, is in 4-year drought, the worst in 60 years. Cambodian water for crop irrigation is down to 20% of normal.

China has informed Guangzhou (pop 15M) and Shenzhen (pop 12.5M), the country’s tech hub, to cut per capita water use from January to October of 2022. The Pearl River Basin, which serves as the water source for China’s most populous urban centers, as mentioned, has been hit with severe drought, plus the looming drinking water crisis is compounded by drought-induced saltwater intrusion.

In Japan, Matsuyama (pop 515K) and Shikokuchuo (Pop 84K) are rationing water to citizens. Some areas of the country are experiencing crippling water shortages. The country is also experiencing power shortages and intends to go to more coal.

In Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya are faced with brutal drought. Three million livestock have died under the fierce influence of heat. In the Horn of Africa, 20M people are at risk of starvation and failure of water supplies.

America’s two largest water reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell are within a few tens of feet of dead pool status defined as water no longer running downstream beyond Hoover dam and Glen Canyon dam respectively. Lake Mead dead pool is 895 feet elevation; it’s currently 1,041 feet. Lake Powell’s dead pool is 3,370 feet elevation. It is current 3,536 feet. The US Bureau of Reclamation recently informed the seven Colorado River Basin states to cut water usage on an emergency basis.

The entire planet is reeling from global warming. America’s modest couple hundred billion climate plan is a drop in the world’s bucket. The whole world needs to act soon and seriously, or it’s lights out. The evidence of that is compelling, unless, of course, facts don’t count any longer.

Robert Hunziker

Los Angeles